Popular Culture in Britian in the 1960s

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Last updated: November 13, 2019

To many of the people at the time, they were the ‘swinging sixties’. They were a decade when fashions changed continuously and young people appeared to have more freedom than ever before.

It was a time that many people look back on with fond memories, but which others blame for some of the failings of society.Culture is an interest deeply enjoyed by ones class, race, income, wealth and religion. Popular culture is usually attributed to the working class.

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During the early 1960’s Britain was locked into the ideas and attitudes of the previous decade, popular culture was far more fifties than sixties. However gradually during the decade the ideas of the ‘swinging’ sixties started to be seen throughout Britain.Since 1955, British music had been dominated by various American singers who targeted a specific audience, for example the legendary Elvis Presley targeted the young and Perry Como targeted the middle aged. However by 1961 this music was seen to have become mainstream and not at all radical. There was no distinctive sound to English popular and the talents that were British all copied Elvis Presley’s distinctive sound such as Cliff Richard and Billy Fury. However, by 1961 a group called The Quarrymen and later known as The Beatles changed the face of popular music forever.

Their early songs were distinctive and their sound became unique.The television was dominated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) which was controlled by John Reith. He believed every programme shown on television must be educational; this portrayed him as a very conservative and elitist man. This meant that programmes followed strict rules and had to be serious. The interviewers and presenters were highly educated English men. They had to be extremely clever, being educated either at Oxford or Cambridge University. As well as obtaining all these ‘qualities’ they were always white.

However ITV was introduced to the public later in 1955, this meant major competition for the BBC. ITV were a lot more flexible and less formal. They weren’t interested in entertaining the audience. ITV Produced a lot more entertainment which encouraged the BBC to do the same so viewers would be tempted to watch both channels. One of the first shows broadcast on ITV was ‘I Love Lucy’, an American comedy show.

In time both channels became a lot more popular, broadcasting shows aimed at the working class people. There was the democratization of TV in Britain where people began to watch programmes such as ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Coronation Street’.The cinema was completely dominated by the United States of America. Huge Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘Ben Hur’ dominated every cinema screen of Britain. Cinema was extremely cheap, most people going twice weekly to watch the latest films.

However British Films such as ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ were all based ob Britain’s victories in the war and looked backwards. But in 1960 films such as ‘The Loneliness of the Distance Runner’, ‘Poor Cow’ and ‘Saturday and Sunday Morning; all reflected real life and working life people who problems that had to be dealt with. These films were successful because they were aimed at the working class.

Clothing in the sixties underwent perhaps the most dramatic transformation of any fashions of the 20th century. From the formal, ultra-feminine and conservative styles of the early sixties to Mod fashions like miniskirts and hot pants. Clothing in the sixties reflected a new movement towards comfort and youthful independence.Twiggy, was probably the most famous model from the sixties. As the first teenager to become a supermodel, her impact was an instant. She was perhaps the first mass-merchandised model: at the height of her fame there were dolls, hosiery, cosmetics and even lunchboxes.

She was a huge influence on British youth, and her anorexia encouraged young girls to take slimming pills.Fresh ideas came and revolution was beginning to take place. Slowly new television advertisements and programmes were being freely broadcast.

Cinema was no longer dominated by the USA. The British began to change by becoming less elitist and a lot more inclusive. Thus the seeds of change took place in the early 1960’s and changed society forever. The ‘Swinging Sixties’ were on their way.

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